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Archive for September, 2014

Most of the critiques of the second book in the Dual Magics series (formerly titled THE IGNORED PROPHECY, now likely THE VOICE OF PROPHECY) have come back. I have some work to do to make it ready for publication in December. So, very soon, I will have to transition back to revision mode and start work on that.

I’m trying to finish up a couple of chapters of book three (BEYOND THE PROPHECY, probably) first. The ones I already have fairly clearly in my head. Best to get them out before they fade.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to come up with a new concept for the cover art. I thought I had that all wrapped up, but the title change to emphasize a different part of the story needs to be paired with appropriate cover art. I think I’ve got a fair idea now of what I’m going to do. Unfortunately, it’ll be a bit more work than the previous concept.

Lots to do.

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More Sequels Are Hard:

Partial feedback from another reader indicates that the beginning may be on the slow side. Readers who were already invested in these characters were willing to go along for the ride, but this was a new reader, unfamiliar with the first book.

I think it’s to do with the conflicts.

THE SHAMAN’S CURSE has two main, interweaving conflicts. There’s the external conflict with the shaman, which starts first and ends the story, and then there’s Vatar’s internal conflict over his magic. The external conflict is the one in the title and it’s more the sort of conflict that may be expected in this kind of book.

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THE IGNORED PROPHECY has three main conflicts, but the one that starts first (and has to carry the first part of the book) is the internal one. Some very strange things happen with Vatar’s magic and the characters have to figure out why and whether or not it’s dangerous. The two more external conflicts (very closely related to each other) start a bit later in the story. I think, probably, that that internal conflict was not what that reader was expecting.

That may mean two things. One is to try to get to the external conflicts sooner. (Balancing that with also adding content to better introduce the world!) The other is to wonder whether I have the right title for this book. This one has always been THE IGNORED PROPHECY. It never even had a different working title. But maybe I need to think of a title that better describes that internal conflict so that readers get the kind of story they’re expecting. Right now it looks like possibly THE VOICE OF PROPHECY. I like THE SPIRIT’S VOICE, too, but that one might be open to the wrong interpretation. ThE PHANTOM VOICE has an outside chance.

Sigh. That’ll also mean a change to the cover art. Good thing I hadn’t finalized anything yet.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sequels are harder than stand alones.

My first critique on THE IGNORED PROPHECY, sequel to THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, came back a few days ago.

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There are several things I need to work on, but among them are the hardest things to do in a sequel–reintroduce elements.

Among the jobs a sequel has to do is to reintroduce characters, setting (world building, in the case of fantasy or science fiction), and any events in the earlier book(s) that will be important to the plot in this book. Ideally, this has to be done in a way that isn’t boring to a reader who has recently read the previous book, but still be enough to orient a reader who starts the series in the middle or one who doesn’t clearly remember the previous book because of elapsed time. All while keeping this plot moving at the correct pace. This is one reason why I like to have a few beta readers who did read the previous book and a few who didn’t.

Apparently, I did at least a decent job of introducing my cast of characters. (Although a chart of the complex familial relationships like this might not hurt.)

Vatar’s Family 2

(I’ve got to figure out a way to change that into a graphic.) But I didn’t do as good a job of reintroducing the world, particularly the various cultures and how they relate–or don’t–to each other.

Now, figuring out how I can work that in without slowing down the beginning too much–that’s the next challenge.

I also have a theory that middle books in series are harder, too. Especially in fantasy. In the first book, the reader gets all the fun of discovering this new world and its magic. In the last, they get the big explosion of the series finale. It’s really hard to make the middle as interesting as either one of those.

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I now know exactly what happens in the next several chapters of BEYOND THE PROPHECY–and I’m still not making much progress. It’s not editor brain (at least, I don’t think it is). It’s my brain during a heat wave.

I don’t know how many of you have read Terry Pratchett. (If you haven’t, you should.) A subseries in his Disc World series deals with the Night Watch, which (after the advent of Carrot, anyway) includes not just humans, but dwarves, a werewolf, and a mountain troll. I don’t remember the troll’s name off the top of my head, but I do remember this little plot point.

The troll was big, strong, and intimidating to the bad guys. He was also dumber than dirt–until one night he got locked in an ice house. Then he was brilliant. So one of the dwarves built him a hat that would keep his head cool so that he could be smart all the time.

I need someone to invent that hat in this world. The kind of concentration it takes to write a first draft simply eludes me right now.

Maybe my efforts would be better directed to a little revision for the duration. They say this heat wave will end soon–but we all know how much we can trust weathermen. I’ve gotten the first critique back on THE IGNORED PROPHECY and it looks like I may have a lot of work to do on that. Sequels are hard. More on that in my next post.

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So, I’ve taken the step. THE SHAMAN’S CURSE is now exclusively on Amazon and enrolled in Kindle Select.

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Normally, I like to make my books available in as many different places and as many different formats as possible. However, for whatever reason (and some of it baffles me), TSC has sold approximately 1000 times better on Amazon than everywhere else combined. (My normal distribution is more like 60% Amazon, 40% everywhere else.) So, if I was ever going to try Kindle Select, this seemed like the one to do it with.

Kindle Select offers several advantages:

  1. Higher royalty rates in some markets
  2. Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Days
  3. Inclusion in the Kindle Lending Library
  4. And, most important right now, Kindle Unlimited

It’s only been a few days, but I have to say that so far the experiment has been a success. Sales have held fairly steady (maybe just a tiny drop) and the addition of “borrows” either through KOLL or KU has really helped bump TSC back up the Amazon best-seller charts.

Meantime, I’ve been trying to survive work during a vicious heat wave which is only going to get worse. I’m a crossing guard by day (which leaves me plenty of time to write), so I stand out on a corner wearing a uniform that is not what I would choose for this weather (black polyester pants!), and walk almost constantly taking children and parents safely across a street that can get really crazy at times. There is no shade to speak of on my corner. A heat wave right at the beginning of the school year, before I get a chance to get re-accustomed to the routine, is rough going, but I still do really love the job–and the hours.

Also, I’m still working on my new writing space. This weekend, it’s been about turning a closet into a book case (more or less). Here’s yesterday’s progress:

Digital Camera

Those lower shelves that are crammed full–those are all fantasy books. And that’s not all of them. Science fiction is up on the right and history books (yeah, I’m a history nerd) are on the left.

For those of you who are wondering, the second book in the DUAL MAGICS series, THE IGNORED PROPHECY is on schedule for release in December. And I’m progressing, slowly, on the third book, currently titled BEYOND THE PROPHECY.

I do want to share this terrific post by Sarah Negovetich on what to do to still be productive, even when the writing isn’t flowing.

 

 

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I’m back at work on Book 3 of the DUAL MAGICS series (currently titled BEYOND THE PROPHECY, but nothing’s set in stone). But I’m not fully back in first draft mode.

I’ve decided that’s part of my problem in really getting this one rolling. After all, I know the characters and the world. I laid down a rough outline of at least the high points of what’s going to happen. So what’s holding me back from making better progress?

Answer, I haven’t yet managed to disengage my editor brain. Writing (a first draft) and revising an existing draft are two very different things, calling not just for different skills, but a whole different mind set. Editor brain worries about what should be shown better and what should be cut, not about telling the story in the first place. Editor brain worries about whether that was precisely the right word.

I realized this yesterday when I wrote a new scene, and immediately thought that I should delete it. Well, there’s a good chance that it will be deleted and the information in it worked in with just a few sentences. It doesn’t really merit two pages. But that’s a decision for the second or third draft, not the first. The first draft only goes forward.

First drafts aren’t supposed to be good writing. Their purpose is to get the story out in the open so it can be revised into good writing. And I’ve been revising for quite a while, now. Both THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and THE IGNORED PROPHECY had already been written before.

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(Not well, but that’s what revision is for.) The plot lines didn’t really change as I reworked them, just tightened up.

And before that, I revised and polished DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING, which I’m currently querying. It made the top 25 in the Pitch Plus 5 contest. You can see the pitch and first chapter (which just happens to be about five pages long) here. It’s been a while since I was in first draft mode.

It may take a few more days to switch over to the correct frame of mind, but it will happen. And then this draft will start to really move.

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A few weeks ago, I entered the Pitch Plus 5 Contest over at Adventures in YA Publishing. Then, life being what it is, I lost track of when the first round of results were due. Apparently it was yesterday. Now, the way this contest works is that the first 50 entries make it into the contest. (Actually, the first 25 at an impossibly early–for the West Coast–entry window and the first 25 for a window 12 hours later.) Then, those entries are judged on a standard form by respected book bloggers on a standard scorecard. Based on those scores, the top 25 entries make it to the next round.

This time, entrants also get a short critique from that first judge. Email being what it is (newest on top), I read that critique before the announcement of who got in to the next round. The first sentence is “The opening didn’t hook me.” So, naturally, I thought that I wasn’t going any further this time. Then I get down to the list–and DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING is on it.

Here’s the initial entry, by the way.

So, now I have two days to make revisions and also do a little work on the query and get it in by midnight (9 p.m. my time) tomorrow night for the next round, judged by authors.

Yeah, that means that the first draft of BEYOND THE PROPHECY (book 3 of the DUAL MAGICS series) will be put on hold until Tuesday. (I have written a new first chapter for it, that does a better job of telegraphing the kind of story it will be.)

Meanwhile, I’m in the middle (exactly) of painting the final wall in what will be my new writing space.

Digital CameraWhat I want to know is: who had the bright idea for all those louvers?

Going to be a busy couple of days.

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